Bontrager Enduro Allroad ”gravel bike”

Bontrager Privateer Comp drop bar rigid mountain bike

2023 New Year’s update. Knobby tires, original XT cranks back from the Fitz. I moved the RTP tires to my sister in law’s Trek 930, and I sold off all the XTR cranks and funky bottom brackets, including the XTR/Jericho setup (which would have looked amazing on the Fitz…).


Bontrager Privateer Comp “gravel bike”

2022 New Year’s update. Rat Trap Pass tires, Nitto riser threadless stem, XTR cranks. Unicanitor saddle for all-weather riding. I stole the old-style Bontrager innertube sleeve to protect the seat post slot; I got the idea from the RoadLite, and found old catalog pictures showing other Bontragers with it.


One of my current older project/brainworms is to convert my Bontrager to a fat-tired road bike. Bars are On-One Midge bars with bar-end shifters. I swapped the SID Dual-Air for a Kona P2 canti fork, and bought some phenomenally expensive (for me) Compass Rat Trap Pass tires. I’d been planning the conversion for some time, but changed the fork the day after I rode down Mt Tam and back to the top with knobbies and a suspension fork.

I visited a couple of cool bike shops in Sebastopol, and got some bar tape, since I like to buy something when I visit a shop. Black bar tape replaces the dingy faded cloth tape, looking a little more intentional. Spot the electrical tape fanciness on the stem!


Here’s the “finished” bike, still wanting an LD stem (UPDATE: I tried an LD stem, and it was too tall), and A23 rims for tubeless setup. Maybe a setback (or just fresher-looking) 27.0 seatpost (UPDATE: I got a Thomson post).

Bontrager Privateer Comp with drop bars and rigid fork

I rode it for a week with the rigid fork. Less funky dive in the corners. I like it. I chose the canti-only fork because it’s lighter, I don’t like extraneous bits, and I’m happy with V-brakes on this bike.


This was always a fine bike, and it came with Bontrager-modified King hubs. Keith Bontrager once told an interviewer they were the one piece of kit he wished he had a secret stash of.

Bontrager Privateer with drop bars and suspension fork

State of the Ross Porteur – 10/11/14

State of the Ross 9-30-2014 Left it under the oak tree for six months, the fenders are jacked up, and I sold the front wheel with the matching S3X rear. Sad.

I sold my S3X/dyno wheelset and halogen lights, leaving the Ross without a front wheel (because I didn’t go get one off the pile in the shed and put a tire on it), and I took the chain for the Singular, or maybe the Quickbeam after I rode it on gravel paths in a rainstorm.

Stripping the Ross porteur down. Maybe build it as a road bike?

I had planned to make this into a geared roadbike, with the old SON hub and new IQ Cyo LED headlight, but no derailleur hanger or shifter bosses make it seem better off remaining a fixie. Maybe the Quickbeam needs to become the fendered winter commuter, and the Ross setup as the fixed/free double-single “fast” roadbike.

Hot new tires coming

I just ordered up some Soma C Lines from Ocean Air Cycles. These are basically the exact tire I’ve been waiting for – about as fat as is easy on a fendered Quickbeam, plenty cush, with super-supple sidewalls. And I got the red ones.

Soma C-Line tires in red

Just like the Quickbeam and the Sturmey Archer S3X, this is something that fits an extremely specific need I’ve had for a while, and I jumped on it. Also, I like that “C-Line” sounds like “Sea Lion.”

These will replace the Mythos CX Slicks I’m running now, and I’m going to get new fender hardware (and maybe cables, too) to freshen up the bike for winter. I also got some Tire Savers from Loose Screws, to keep them free of the tiny sharp wire bits that have been plaguing me recently.

It’s a corker

I like to use corks as bar plugs. They’re light, they’re natural, they’re free, and some of them have a personal connection. This one is from a bottle of Van Duzer I drank with my friends in Oregon when one of them was a winemaker there. I cut the corks in half, one half in each end of the bar.


The only trouble is… how to get them out? Plastic plugs pry right out, and Velox plugs have an expanding screw you undo.

For cork extraction… use a corkscrew! I’m pretty sure everyone does this, but it’s amusing and enjoyable to me every time.


The new tape (Bike Peddler has cloth tape, but you have to ask, and it’s only black) gets folded over to tuck inside, with the cork holding it cleanly.


I did some other stuff to the Gravel Roadster at the same time. And shellacked the tape! I never do that, but I bought shellac to finish some paintings, and figured “what the heck.”

Custom Ink bike curation

A reader pointed me to some cool bikes built up by a screenprinter as artworks. I really like that approach to bikes, and I really like the bikes themselves. I was a screenprinter* for 8 years, so I have an affinity there, too.

The show in the screenprinting cafe/galleryFlying Carpets

My favorite of Jason’s bikes is the Thief of Bagdad bike, which picks up the colors and feeling of the great poster from the movie.

It’s the gold one on the left, with the pale blue rims. I like the blend of fixed gear and BMX going on here, and I think it’s cool he makes them happen.

There are more images here, and a fuller story: Inker Gallery

I got distracted reading about the Thief of Bagdad on wikipedia while stealing this poster image… the original 1924 version stars Douglas Fairbanks, and sounds awesome; the 1940s version stars Sabu, who I’d only ever heard of from the John Prine song. Reading the synopsis of the movie made me think “Wow. Sounds like Aladdin.”

And by the way… oh fuck.

*I can use a stat camera. Can you use a stat camera? I can use a stat camera. 

homebrew saddle rail taillight mount

DiNotte Lighting – 300R, originally uploaded by Freeheel Girl.

Extremely cool fabricated mount to attach a DiNotte 300R to the seat rails of a superslick roadified MB-1. Yeah, click through for the pictures!

She has a nice spiral-wrap innovation to run lighting wires along the brake cable, and… shows how to make your own spiral wrap out of tubing.

You would be well advised to check out the whole MB-1 Project Bike set!

17/19 1992 Bridgestone MB-1, originally uploaded by Freeheel Girl.

Ross with dynamo hub

I built up a budget dynamo wheel for the gravel roadster, but chickened out on putting Big Apple balloon tires on the narrow Cold Fusion rim. Instead I pulled the low trail Ross touring bike out of the dark corner of the garage and fitted it out with the new wheel.

ross fixie in front of Red Fox BakeryI hung an E6 from the front rack with a simple P-clamp, and used a modified lens that mounts correctly on an inverted light. It’s the bike I’ve been riding to work this week, and I really like it.

shimano alfine dynamo hub and E6 lightI also put a giant sized Schwinn (Karrimor-made?) saddlebag on the front rack. I like that, too. It’s like a trunk. I’m going to attach it more firmly to the rack this weekend, either with grommets and zip ties, or with mini-P clamps and little bolts. Right now it’s strapped tightly with a toe strap, and hangs from the moustache bars with two more toe straps, because the saddlebag mounting straps weren’t long enough.

low trail ross with large front bag and moustache barsToday I took a couple of pictures of the bike, and ended up chatting with Matt, who works at Red Fox and according to his workmate, “Loves bikes. And cameras.” Hey, me too! Matt’s moving to Whitefish Montana, and is excited to ride the Divide, since it’s right there! I told him to check out Kent’s blog. Matt has my friend Nathaniel’s old Karate Monkey, and the Suzue Pro-max track wheels I traded for Nathaniel’s SON dyno wheel and lights.

ross, moustache bars and big bag from the frontWhich is what made me realize I need dynamo lights on all my bikes in the first place.

Removing the chain tensioner

While I was wrestling the Angel of Stupidity, deciding to mount my new fenders on the ‘wrong’ wheels, I did manage to remove the chain tensioner and rig up a “magic gear” that fits the chainstay length. I’m against chain tensioners. I think they’re inelegant and heavy (heavier than having none, at least), and the one I had only seems to work in an ‘outer’ position. It skips if you move the idler wheel inboard.

No Chain TensionerSo I removed a link, and found a gear that works. I had to make sure my chainwheel was centered, though, since it was binding in one spot. I used the Sheldon method to center the ring – it worked perfectly, and was a lot easier than I’d thought. Surprisingly, it was the first time I’d had to do it in 12 years of fixed gear bike tinkering. Vertical dropouts. Go figure. I may go do it to the other 6 derailler-less bikes in my garage, though.

The 36×18 gear I chose (or that chose me) isn’t that useful for flat-land riding OR the super-steep pitches I want to ride. My plan to remove a link and drop 4 cog teeth don’t look like they’ll work. I put the cog on and wrapped the chain, but it comes a couple millimeters short meeting pin-to-pin. It might work when the chain wears more, or I could file flats in the axle, or get a cog FIVE teeth smaller, but I’ll probably just ride it like this for a while. 36×18 is a classic singlespeed gear, and spinning it does move the bike forward…

I am now looking for a 22t cog for a climbing gear, so I can re-dingle-ize the bike, but 22 teeth seems to be the point at which singlespeed cogs go couture and jump 10x in price. ~$3.50 for an 18t cog, to ~$30 for a 22t cog.

I’m thankful for my fenders

gravel roadster with fenders

I mounted the pink Cascadia fenders I bought. They clear the 53mm (alleged/nominal/putative 60mm) Big Apples nicely, they look baller*, and they’re pink.

new rear fender over 60mm Big Apple tires

To make this work with the minimal clearance of the Utopia (and I saw a new-model Utopia with the same issue: fatter tires will hit the derailleur), I did a stupid thing. I mounted the rear fender on the front, and the front on the rear. I knew it was stupid, but I did it anyway.

front bracket before drilling. 3/16 for the rivets, 1/4 for the bolts

Anyway, I took the flat aluminum stock I bought after seeing Tapebubba’s GripKing hack, and made two brackets, one for the end of the rear fender, and one for the front. 1/4″ holes for the bolts to attach them, 3/16″ for the rivets. Rivets are the only way to go for fenders that have clearance issues, and as far as I can tell, ALL fenders have clearance issues. After fixing Angelina’s B72 Brooks saddle, I am in love with rivets. Metal, low-profile, and you get to use things like chisels, nail-sets and BALL-PEEN HAMMERS!

brackets - front (long) and rear (short)

Let me say that again. BALL PEEN HAMMERS.
(I don’t actually own a ball peen hammer)

riveted fender bracket. custom.

Here’s what I learned and how I scored:

  • Line the brackets up to mark for drilling UNDER the fender holes if that’s how you’ll mount them. Bend a nice curve into the metal, drill the fenders, and mark the metal through the fender holes. Simply measuring doesn’t work, because whatever’s on top will have holes further apart than what’s on the bottom. I actually figured this out before drilling the metal. 10 points to me.
  • Drill the holes before making the 90 degree bend for the bracket. It is orders of magnitude easier to hold the metal when it’s flat, rather than trying to hold a dinky piece of angled metal while the drill tries to grab it and snap it around into your fingers. Leverage. I learned this the hard way on the small bracket, and put it into practice on the big one. -10 for the first one, 10 points for learning.
  • Slots! All my boltholes were slots instead of holes. Drill a 1/4″ hole and go at it with a rat-tail file, or drill two holes and connect them by filing. Worked perfectly. 10 points.
  • Dry fit everything twice before drilling any holes. I ended up slotting the fender for the front bracket to come up through the fender in front of the rivet holes instead of behind them. Totally accurate, dead-on measuring. Fits perfectly. Backwards. The aluminum support goes behind the fork instead of out front, the mudflap is 4″ closer to the ground, and the forward projection is shorter than planned. My points? Negative 10,000.
  • If you give yourself some slack, it won’t be that bad. The mudflap picks up leaves riding through a Fall orchard, but the front bag still stays clean. I have a plan to make another bracket that uses the ‘bad’ slot and another slot to not only support the front fender extension, but also mount a dynamo light. Points to me? About 40 (if it works).

pink front fender

I’m happy with the setup. Obviously, my calves are not protected from the spray from the rear wheel. I have a mental image of what needs to happen back there, but it’s bizarre – the fender cutoff from the front needs to be channeled to fit around the seattube, and held in place somehow. Still way better coverage than the seatpost-mount filth prophylactics you see everywhere. The bike and the conditions presuppose a little ‘roughing it,’ so it’s not a dealbreaker for me. I think the rear fender looks very roadsterrific, which was the idea.

gravel roadster with new pink Cascadia fenders. Also some hay.

* I got this adjective from my brother in law tonight. He says it means “rich enough for a basketball player,” but I think it’s more along the lines of “in like Flynn.” I also got the euphemism “delta bravo,” which stands for d.b., which stands for douche bag. We’ve already moved on to “douche nozzle,” “douche pickle” and “king of the doucheteria” at my house, so “delta bravo” might be a little like suggesting Mrs O’Leary put the lantern out of range of the cow’s hoof. The Titanic has sailed. Sounds cool, though.

Gravel Roadster – Big Apples on the Utopia

I bought some 60mm Big Apples for Jim’s old Gary Fisher Utopia. These things are so fat that when I opened the box, I thought there were two big pythons in it!

Schwalbe Big Apple bike tires - 700x60 in red and whiteThese tires make this bike into an ideal Gravel Roadster.* Two speeds, super fat tires, flared drops, rigid fork. It’s pretty light, even though the tires are not. The tires barely fit in the back, solely because of the front derailer cable stop, which I filed down two millimeters for a little extra clearance. You have to look at the gap square on to see that the stop doesn’t actually touch the crown of the tire.

60mm Schwalbe rubber on a Fisher Utopia

I did see with these tires that the wheel needed a little dishing adjustment – the tires almost rubbed on the right stay, but had lots of room on the left. I gave the left-pulling spokes a half turn tighter, and the right-pulling spokes a half-turn looser, and it seems perfect now. I don’t know if the frame is misaligned, or the wheel was improperly dished, but it doesn’t really matter now, and I can always adjust the wheel later if it’s an issue. These 60mm Big Apples actually measure 53mm on these WTB SpeedDisc rims

I like that chainstay yoke for extra clearance

“Roadsters” apparently lack of any form of weather protection, but I’d like to make some demi-fenders like Sycip’s Oregon Manifest trike. A full fender in the rear would take a lot of modification: a slot for the seat tube, and possibly a split at the seatstay bridge. I plan to buy a dynamo hub for the front, but not for a while yet.

* Near as a Google search can tell me, I picked up the term “gravel roadster” from someone on the RBW list describing their Rawland rSogn, and “dirt roadster” appears regularly on Coconino Cycles’ blog.

“Max’s” new bike

“Max’s” new bike, originally uploaded by BikeTinker.

So far, it’s set up for me, while I “iron out the kinks.” This bike is really nice. I want to drop the levers a quarter inch, and run the cables higher on the bars, but it’s pretty well dialed. Dingle setup, 36×14 and 32×18. Flared drops. Flat pedals. I haven’t tried the low gear, but I bought a new ring just for it. Coasting is actually pretty fun!

I like cassette hubs, and I like disc brakes. And threadless headsets. The two-tone bar wrap is also pleasing me a lot. You’ll see that again in a little bit.

It’s a Gary Fisher Utopia hybrid my friend Jim (coincidentally a fan of CycloFiend’s bike gallery)  gave me for my 10 year old. I thought (and Max still thinks), “Dude, it’s a grown-up bike!” But at 43cm, it’s the smallest 700c bike I can find, and the same size my LBS recommended for a kid’s first ‘full size’ bike. The only issue is getting the bars low enough, but a short stem, inverted, and the seat slammed all the way, puts the bars and saddle in the same relative position as his Redline Junior.

I replaced the Metro shock with a rigid Kona Project 2 fork, and got some 42cm Salsa Woodchippers from a friend. The bartape is Newbaum’s cloth tape, from Rivendell.

So far the kid is sticking with the Redline Junior BMX bike he’s had since he was 5. That works for me, since I haven’t ridden another bike since I set up the bars. Stop me before I put a rack on it!

Liz’s Raleigh Makeover

This was a little makeover project I did a while ago for my great friend Liz.

The tires are skinny 25s, but they rolled pretty well for me even at, what, 5 stone more than Liz? And… they’re all that would fit with fenders. The real clearance issue was the pinchbolt on the front derailler, if you can believe it.

Elizabeths classic road bike, now a Portland cruiser - with a broken stem clamp

Elizabeth worked on the California AIDS Ride, and trained and rode thousands of miles on this bike, a hand-me-down from her father. It hung in her garage for years after, until she realized I was some kind of bike nerd, and would LOVE to tinker with her bike. Our friend Mark provided the fenders and some bits, and we were off to the races!

I see from the picture I’m a dramatic shortener of cable housing, and I think all bikes should have fenders. I thought this even when I lived in California. There are still AIDS ride sticker mojo (stars signed by sponsors), and most of the components are original, since we didn’t have the funds to drop on gearing or 650B wheels (or 590A, even).

You might have wondered what’s up with the hipsteriffic bars. “Yeah, what’s wrong with those bars?!” They’re Albatross bars from Rivendell, rotated all the way around.

Funny story.

Max and I went up to Portland to ride around with Liz on her new whip (her on hers, us on our old regular ones). She warned us, “There’s some massive Portland bike ride that day. We want to make sure to miss THAT!” We were late getting to her house because I-5 was closed down for the bike ride, and we had to sort of circle her entire neighborhood, honing in by degrees as we encountered blocked off streets and streams of cyclists at every turn.

Anyway, “Whew! Frickin’ bikers! Now we can go ride our bikes!” Getting ready to go, I noticed the bars were loose in the stem. That’s no good! Tighten tighten, SNAP! The aluminum clamp cracked right off. I believe it was a case of a 25.4 bar in a 26.0 stem. Huh. “That dog won’t hunt!” We went to a McMenamin’s, instead.

That was many months ago, and I’ve had a replacement stem in my bin for her for almost that long. I should mail it to her, so she can replace it herself, but I think it’s another 26.0.